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The London Series successfully embodied the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry

While some fans complained about length and sloppiness... what did we really expect?

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

It’s semi-ironic that the actual heyday of the Yankees and Red Sox rivalry, between 2003 and 2005, came prior to the constant attention put upon the two clubs in the Sunday Night Baseball era. Since then it’s been the TV media pining for something that likely won’t return, but still getting something interesting as it is still the Yankees and Red Sox, of course.

The usual ire is drawn because these are two traditionally high-scoring ball clubs, and they typically endure long slogs of affairs. The longest nine-inning game in history, after all, was between the Yankees and Red Sox on August 18, 2006, when a back-and-forth game that featured a David Ortiz home run against Mariano Rivera in the ninth still ended with a 14-11 Yankees victory.

This brings us to this past weekend, where the Yankees played the Red Sox at London Stadium for a two-game series to showcase baseball, and the cherished rivalry, to Europe and the world. In game one, they certainly did not disappoint by a length-of-time standard:

It also gets to the main point of the piece, which is that, frankly, Major League Baseball got very lucky. Yes, I know people paid a lot of money and maybe even traveled a long distance to watch what may have looked like a total bore, but as someone who was casually watching from a resort bar (I was off, OK), it looked like exactly what one would want and expect from the rivalry if you were to distill the rivalry and their match-ups into a vial.

There are three main elements to a Great Yankees/Red Sox game, and it comes down to:

  • Length of game
  • Runs scored
  • Average leverage index

All of the longest games listed there at least had seven runs scored by each team, so we would expect the same. What about game two? That game, a 12-8 Yankees win, was a measly four hours and 24 minutes, making it the fourth-longest game between the two since 2000. So if we were to rate that out of 100, we would have to say that it is a 100/100 Most Yankees/Red Sox based on length.

As far as runs scored, just looking at it should suffice. 30 runs were scored in the first game, and 20 in the second. Here’s where the teams ranked in their personal head-to-heads since 2000:

Game one:

  • Yankees: 4th
  • Red Sox: T-7th

Game two:

  • Yankees: 17th
  • Red Sox: 35th

While they had a chance of making it a real all-timer in game two, and the Red Sox could have scored more runs for sure, but it ends up being a more “normal” match-up in game two and a historic one the first go-around. I’ll give this an 80 out of 100, let’s say.

Despite the fact that so many runs were scored and the Yankees led for most of both games, the Red Sox still managed to get the tying run at the plate at various points throughout the series. This means that the leverage index was actually higher than one would expect in a 12-or-17-run game, meaning it’s more like a usual, heated game between the two. While leverage index isn’t available for game two, we can say that game one had an aLI of .592, which ranks 63rd since 2000. That would be middle-of-the-road, despite the fact the game was exciting at times. Let’s give this a 25 out of 100.

Overall, this makes the series, based on my total arbitrary numbers, makes this 61% of a classic Yankees/Red Sox series, or about two-thirds of the way there. This makes intuitive sense because we got two of the main elements—lots of runs scored and a lot of time—while a little less of the high leverage we’ve come to expect from, say, playoff games.

That being said, the league can’t say they’re unsatisfied with getting two out of three, which is why it’s a fair conclusion to make that this series was the rivalry basically in a nutshell as far as normal games in June go, and that’s the best thing possible to being an ambassador to the game abroad.